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Conversational Threads

Fabric Store Poll

stitchmd | Posted in General Discussion on

Please give feedback on what you like and dislike about fabric stores. I recently wrote to a local chain to explain how changes they had made were discouraging me from going there. They have written back wanting to discuss it further, so I’d like to have opinions from others to offer them. If you are in the DC area I am talking about G Street.


  1. rjf | | #1

    A lot of fabric stores these days don't carry a good supply of basic notions.  Maybe notions don't encourage impulse buying but a sewist who knows she can get the right length and color of zipper at a particular store is more apt to buy some fabric at that store.  And sometimes it's hard to find good quality lining.      rjf

  2. carolfresia | | #2

    I get kind of cranky when I go to buy thread and the thread display is half empty, or when newly issued patterns haven't been put in the drawers. Inaccurate cutting of fabric is another pet peeve of mine--I bought a yard of silk chiffon once, and when I got it home it was cut so badly offgrain that there was really only about half a yard of on-grain fabric. Grrr! Oh, and it's often hard to find a good selection of interfacings. There's such a great variety of sew-ins and fusibles on the market these days that it's frustrating to be faced with a choice to one or two, usually very stiff options.

    What I love in a fabric store is a staff who knows the merchandise and is interested in helping me find something wonderful. The store doesn't have to be huge, and it can have a measly selection of notions, if the fabric is nice and the staff helpful. However, I've noticed that stores with great fabric and a great staff usually also keep just the notions you need.

    Finding a great bargain can turn even the most aggravating store into a gem, however!


  3. oliveoyl | | #3

    Inaccurate cutting of fabric is my biggest peeve. So often my fabric looks like a trapezoid and the cut edges don't even match up - the clerk will not listen to you when you point this out and will not cut it properly. If extra fabric is cut, it is not so bad, but so many clerks cut to the exact centimetre.

    Another is chain stores that try to pass off seconds of fabrics (some that even have obvious flaws) as quality fabrics for full price - then refuse to take it back or at the very least, give a discount.

    Lack of knowledgable staff - especially when you hear them telling a customer something that will not work or really flogging an inappropriate fabric.

    A messy looking store - especially fabrics dumped in a big bin.

    Notions and patterns that are not regulary re-stocked.

    Lack of quality linings and interfacings.

  4. lin327 | | #4

    I have to also vote for poor quality cutting as my biggest peeve.  I've requested that fabric be recut if I thought it was too off grain.

    I really dislike the amount of non sewing junk in some stores, like baskets and baker's racks and strange looking things that are to be hung from the walls, they look sort of like animals with jinglers hanging from them.  The Bouclair chain in Canada used to be all fabrics, but it has more weird junk in it than fabric now.

    Oh yes, and it would be nice if all fabric stores had a public washroom in them.  I like to take my time and spend a couple hours looking at fabrics and patterns and notions, and a washroom might encourage me to stay a bit longer and spend a bit more money!  Is that really too much to ask; a little creature comfort?

    1. BYDEZINE | | #5

      I agree with the bath room part. and I am really irritated by salespeople who refuse to tear a fabric and insist on cutting. I have taken to getting very assertive and telling the person that I will take full responsibility for tearing it so I get a perfect grain line on at least one end. they are amazed !!!

      It's like they didn't think fabric can't be ripped. I mean if someone would invent an unrippable  fabricm it would sell for millions. And I am not talking about brocades and knits and fleece. I am talking about their absolute refusal to tear silk, cottons etc.

      The better stores in the garment distracit in NYC always tore when they could and you wouldn't lose 1/4 of a yeard straightening the fabric at home.

      1. lin327 | | #6

        Oh yeah, I know about the tearing vs cutting problem!  I know why tearing is preferable over cutting, but I'v seen many customers get upset when a clerk starts tearing fabric.  Some think it's being ruined, or something.  When I was learning how to sew, the first thing I learned was to tear across to get a perfect straight edge.  I think maybe a little education is required for both sales people and some who aren't quite as experienced in sewing.

      2. user-2857028 | | #24

        Hi: I HATE TEARING FABRIC! It seems to primitive, and leaves you with ugly strings and a warped edge. I still pre-wash anyway, so that should take care of bad edges, but the tearing part --- how can they? Which makes me ask: why do you like it? Thx. Megclix

        1. BYDEZINE | | #25

          tearing makes sure that the non selvage end is straight across. so when you straighten up the ends and the selveges ( assuming the fabric is woven straight) you will have perfectly straight grain lines. this is imperative is making clothing, drapes etc.) obviously some fabrics can't be torn but anything that can be torn gets torn at my house and I prefer they would tear at the store so I don't lose all those inches tearing it to straighten it myself.

          Maybe current sewers and quilters don't care about grain, but when I was taught to sew, it was a fundamental never to be overlooked. and when i teach I still spend the first session discussing fabric and grain.

          1. user-2857028 | | #26

            Thankx Bydezine/ You make tearing sound so appropriate and normal. Unfortunately, I can only think of mangled threads and edges. Happy Holidays -- Megclix.

          2. rjf | | #27

            In the really old days, we were taught to pull a crosswise thread out and cut along that line to square up the fabric.  I did it once in class.  Enough!  My feeling is that a good manufacturer will try to get the fabric on the bolt straight to begin with because it isn't the cutting that makes it offgrain.  I have torn fabrics to straighten them (despite the threads) and sometimes that works but sometimes the fabric has been twisted out of square during the finishing process so the ends may be on grain but they don't line up.  It takes some experience to know what you can get away with.  But I do think fabric stores could offer both the tearing and cutting options.   rjf 

          3. user-2857028 | | #28

            Yes, a choice would be nice, and an explanation sometimes, too. YOU make is all sound practical, sensible and worthwhile. Thx, Megclix.

          4. sewphaedra | | #29

            I will be interested to hear what G Street does in response to the feedback. I haven't been there yet, I have heard it isn't as good as before it moved. I am mourning the closing of my local fabric store, Les Fabriques (they advertise in Threads). They have a Charlottesville, VA location which I guess I will be driving to. The worst part was that I was teaching sewing classes there in return for shopping credit! I'm going to miss that!

            The thing I really dislike about the chain stores is the bad selection of inferior fabrics.

          5. user-2857028 | | #33

            Dear Snappy: Sorry to hear about your store closing. What was the name of it? Yes, privately owned fabric stores are near and dear to us. I try to support them whenever I can. I am a quilter, who sometimes makes her own clothes. So, I go for 100 % cottons, as well as the lovely linens and silks out there, too. Megclix.

          6. sewphaedra | | #35

            The store that closed in my town was a second branch--the original store is in Charlottesville, an hour from me, and so they will move all inventory to that store. They had a big sale and I loaded up!

            We have several decorator fabric stores, and one independent store that I've heard is good but apparently the owner is rude and insulting, so I'm not anxious to go in there. I might try G Street, although I've heard they're overpriced.

            I sew mostly garments, but also lots of home dec (saves money!) and a few craft-like things. I just did a crazy-quilt project which I liked because it used up my scraps, so I will probably do more of those. I'm beginning a red boiled-wool vest and am thinking of crazy-quilted patch pockets and maybe collar in just red fabrics.

          7. user-2857028 | | #34

            PS to Snappy: I just re-read your posting. (I got the name of your store.) Speaking of inferior fabrics, ugh. I live in Birmingham, AL. Thankfully, we've got two quilt shops here, which are different in content and atmosphere, so we have a choice (I"m a quilter, and make clothes every now and then). As for regular dressmaking fabrics --- double ugh. We have JoAnn's (one), and several Hancock's and that's it. This is an area with over 1 million people!!! Sure there are some privately owned decorating fabric stores, along with several sewing machine stores, but nothing else is here for home sewing. It surprised me when I moved here eight years ago. I travel a lot for work, so I buy many of my fabrics elsewhere. There are good fabric stores out there, but not many left.  Is any one buying your closing store's inventory???? Is it possible for someone else to buy the store, and operate it under new management????????? Best of luck --- Megclix.

          8. SewingSue | | #30

            I'm with you, pulling the crossgrain thread is for the birds.  I line up the two selvedge edges and let the crossgrain do its own thing.  I always prewash the fabric before laying out a pattern or cutting the fabric.  I figure if the fabric is off grain and did not relax when laundered it is kinda pointless to go through the exercise of pulling a crossgrain thread and pulling the fabric into alignment.  It seems like once the garment is layed out, cut, sewn and laundered it will want to return to its previous state.  I just work with it the way it is.  I've never really had any problems.  Like I said I do get the two selvedges lined up so the lengthwise grain is straight.    Sue

          9. sewphaedra | | #31

            Aligning the selvedges works just fine, as long as you pay careful attention to the grain of the fabric and get it flat. One thing I do is hold the folded fabric up at the middle and see if it falls flat with the selvedge edges meeting all the way down. Usually it doesn't, or there are diagonal ripples indicating that it's hanging off-grain. Then I slide the selvedge edges up and down until the ripples go away and it hangs straight. Sometimes I lose quite a bit of cross-grain edge at that point because it wasn't cut straight. I'm a fan of tearing whenever possible.

          10. SewingSue | | #32

            That is exactly what I do.  If you have ripples, you have problems.  So I straighten so the lengthwise grain is aligned and smooth.  I agree sometimes lose quite a bit of crossgrain.  If the fabric can handle being torn, I'll tear it.  But again I go with the lengthwise grain being straight.  If washing and drying the fabric isn't enough to relax the fabric and make both the lengthwise and crosswise grains straight I figure my stretching it back into shape is probably pretty pointless as it will probably want to go back to its original alignment.  I just work with it as is.  Thankfully whenever having both grains straight is critical like with plaids, I have found the fabric typically is on grain both lengthwise and crosswise grains.    Sue

    2. carolfresia | | #8

      Let's even specify a CLEAN restroom! I invariably have to take a kid with me to the store, and he without fail needs to use the restroom.

      From what I gather, some stores have a policy about not ripping fabric--perhaps because the clerks can't be trusted to know what can and cannot be safely torn. One store I go to tears some fabric, and for the rest, when possible, they pull a thread and cut carefully along that line. It takes a little longer, but you know you're getting the right amount of fabric. (Of course the fabric itself could be off-grain, but at least if you can straighten the grain you're not going to lose that aggravating 1/4 yd. at teach end).

      How about organization? I'm of two minds--it's nice when the fabric is arranged by type (silks in one place, wools in another, etc.), but I also love it when someone has grouped fabrics by color so there are gorgeous coordinating fabrics of all various together. That's quite inspiring--and wouldn't it be fun to be the person whose job it was to plan the groups?


      1. lin327 | | #9

        I'm of two minds on the organization issue, also.  On one hand it's nice to have all the fabric of the same type together, because then I don't have to search for that elusive sueded twill in purple.  On the other hand, it's nice to fing the perfect blouse fabric to go with my new purple skirt!

        I would love to work in a fabric store, unfortunately the pay is so awful and I would spend all of it at work. That  would make working a money losing proposition!

      2. Tish | | #11

        In the matter of restrooms, I'm on the side of the companies who don't offer them.  I've worked places where, by law, we could not have public bathrooms.  Our business licenses specified that.  Licenses to operate a "public convenience" are more complicated and expensive, and you have to have health inspections. 

         We have had some problems when we allowed shoppers to use our bathrooms.  In a bookstore where I worked in DC in the late 70s we had liquor bottles and drug paraphenalia left on the employee bathroom on a regular basis. 

        Other places, I've had children's messy diapers left in the trash or on the floor of the bathroom, people take the paper supplies, pump all the hand soap out and so forth.  And those things even happened in the Audubon Society Bookstore, where our client base was very highly educated and paid.  These were not bums trashing our facilities, but some of the highest levels of DC area society. 

        The biggest problem is keeping bathrooms clean.  Noone who goes to work for a bookstore (my background) or a fabric store wants cleaning the bathroom to be a part of the job.  Double that or more if it's a public bathroom.  Usually the manager has to do it, and managers have enough to do already.  If you ask to use the bathroom at a store and it's a mess, it's likely a mess because more than just the staff are using it.

        1. carolfresia | | #13

          Hmmm....I see your point, Tish. I think my best solution, personally, is to make sure I won't be needing the restroom during my trip to the fabric store, and require daddy to stay home with the kids! I actually kind of like bringing them along sometimes, as I consider it a great way to get them interested in sewing and textiles, but perhaps just for shorter thread-and-zipper runs in the future.

          Here's another thing I would love in a fabric store: a really good selection of independent patterns and foreign pattern magazines such as Burda, Ottobre Design, and Knip Mode. It's always inspiring to see what's happening in European fashion. Oh, and beautiful sample garments displayed in the store--what better way to get shoppers revved up about the fabric itself?


          1. rjf | | #14

            Is there a translation for "Knip" as in Knip Mode?  It sounds Dutch to me but perhaps it's like "Jones".   

            Tish gave us an education on public bathrooms, didn't she.  It's kind of scary what people will do when they think no one is looking.    rjf

          2. carolfresia | | #15

            Knip Mode is a Dutch magazine--knip usually means "cut," but perhaps it also means sewing or couture or something else? I'm not sure. It's a nice magazine, and they have one for kids and babies as well with very cute patterns. If you can sew pretty well, you don't really need to read Dutch, either--most of the designs can be done without reading the instructions. Ha Ha!! Well, they can, if you know what you're doing...and don't mind fudging a bit here and there!


          3. momcat50 | | #16

            It sounds like the people that own the stores (chains) don't sew.....just a guess....

  5. HNYMAMA | | #7

    I love going to a store where the sales clerks are actually knowledgeable about what they are selling and have tips to give.  When I was buying my halloween costume fabric the girl cutting my peice was so dingy,  she would just giggle and say I have no idea,  she actually had to call the manager to figure out how to measure a yard adn a half (I just wanted to take it away and do it myslef). 

    Patterns stocked with the begining and ending #'s on the drawers and the drawers in order,  comfortable chairs to sit and look at pattern books in (my local JoAnn's chairs are so bad).

    A good supply of basic notions and tools,  it is so frustrating to not be able to find nice basic buttons,  the stores seemed to be overstocked with cutsey ones,  and something simple like needles need to be in stock.  Oh and sewng magazines and books,  I liek being able to buy them at the store.

    And neatness,  I generaly have one of my dd's with me,  it would be nice to be able to walk around the store and not have to worry about triping over fabric left in the ailes.  Oh and why must the stores I go to creativly drape the fabric over the information on the end of the bolt and tuck it,  I have to pull and tug to see what the fabric content and price is.

    I agree with the other poster about non sewing items,  I can go to a craft store for those things,  when I go to a fabric store I am not looking for one stop shopping.  Right now it is holiday decor everywhere.

    Sigh I do belive I need my morning coffee I generaly do not complain this much LOL

  6. MaryAnn | | #10

    Since you mentioned that your concern was with G Street, I will limit my comments to my concerns with changes I've observed there:  inadequalely stocked notions; removal of LaMode buttons--much preferred the LaMode selection to the Dill selections; undertrained personnel in the linings/interfacing and notions areas; management ignorance of their customer base and customer interests (one manager refused to allow a brochure announcing the organizational meeting of an ASG Neighborhood Group to be left for customers because "supporting such a group was a conflict of interest"--imagine my surprise when I saw one of the owners at the ASG convention in Philly); reduced support for sewing education and lack of communication between members of the education staff; overpricing of some fabrics (e.g., quilting cottons, some decorator fabrics). 

    I know a number of people who have addressed concerns to G Street management and all of them have been sorely disappointed in the responses they recieved.  As a former employee, I am firmly convinced any comments I make directly would be immediately discounted, so if you want to have any chance of success with your input to them, don't use my name.    You should also be aware that G Street is an independent family owned and run business; it is not a chain.   I wish you lots of luck in trying to get your concerns heeded.  Please let the list know how your meeting goes.

  7. Crafty_Manx | | #12

    One thing I love particularly about my favorite quilt shop is that they train all their staff to cut fabrics with a rotary cutter and ruler on a mat.  I have never had a piece of fabric from them that has been off grain.  I know it must be a hassle to do it this way but I think it really pays off to not have to buy an extra half a yard of fabric just to make sure you can get enough of a workable piece.


  8. HNYMAMA | | #17

    LOL I almost e-mailed you a link to this site a few days ago:)

  9. rjf | | #18

    Honey and E2,   Love the animations!  How do you do that?      rjf

    1. HNYMAMA | | #20

      Here is a link that explains it much better than I possibly could.  Apparently these boards share some stuff with the delphiforums and about.com forums.  I know I keep this on my favorites list there.


      1. rjf | | #21

        Thank you so much!  I plan to have a lot of fun there after mashing turnip, wrapping presents and picking up my weaving space("room" is not the right word).   In the meantime, I'll look forward to more on your messages.     rjf

  10. HNYMAMA | | #19

    Check your e-mail:)

  11. sundragon | | #22

    Newbie here, but I just had to add my two-cents' worth... I've found the staff at my Joann's in Frederick, MD mostly friendly & knowledgeable, but I have one major whine. I hate that the ever-so-neatly tuck cut pieces of fabric back onto their bolts. You look at it and think there's maybe just enough to do that special garment, then take it to be cut & it's in two (or more) pieces. Very frustrating!! Even the helpful ones don't seem to understand this is a problem for people who don't (yet) know what they're doing! LOL!! I guess if I looked at the folded edge more carefully I could see the cut... but I get too excited when I find that fabric I just can't keep my hands off!

    1. stitchmd | | #23

      Thanks for the tip. I haven't even tried the Gaithersburg Joanne's yet, but it's good to know there is another one not too too far if that one is bad. I see a lot of complaints about many Joann's at other sites.

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